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North Yarmouth Academy Winter Sports Preview

Sports

North Yarmouth Academy Winter Sports Preview

North Yarmouth Academy has much to look forward to this winter. Both basketball teams return to Class D and should be able to compete for a playoff spot. Both hockey teams are optimistic about their chances. Indoor track will have some talented athletes to work with, while Nordic skiing also has athletes to watch. Swimming will train with Greely and reigning Winter Female Athlete of the Year, Sonia Lin, is viewed as one of the best swimmers in the state regardless of class. Emilie Burrill will also be a swimmer to watch.

BOYS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Jason Knight (second year, 7-11 overall record)

2012-13 record: 7-11 (no postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Forrest Chicoine (Senior), Jackson Cohan-Smith (Senior), El-Tayeb Dahia (Senior), Ryan Hemenway (Senior), Eoin Anderson (Junior), Chase Gendron (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 10 TRAIP, Dec. 13 @ Waynflete, Dec. 16 OOB, Jan. 9 @ Hyde, Jan. 11 WAYNFLETE, Jan. 28 HYDE, Jan. 31 @ Traip, Feb. 6 @ OOB

COACH’S COMMENT: “We've had a good early season. The players are now more familiar with me and our system and understand what we want to accomplish. We expect to be in the hunt and make some noise. Our success will be determined by how we spread the ball around on offense and how we play team defense. The guys are excited. They have high aspirations. Playoffs is the goal.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA is five years removed from its last trip to the playoffs and six years removed from its last winning season. Those droughts could very well come to an end this winter. The Panthers boast some strong returners and an elite newcomer who will immediately help the cause. There are three top returners. Gendron is a center, who led the team in scoring (11 points per game) and rebounding (7 per contest) during a second-team all-conference campaign last winter. Dahia, a guard, was also a second-teamer last year. He averaged 10 points, five boards and two steals per contest. Cohan-Smith, NYA's Fall Male Athlete of the Year, will be the point guard. Cohan-Smith led the conference in steals (4.3) and was eighth in assists (3.3) a year ago. He's a cerebral, unselfish talent who is ideal for running an offense. Anderson (a guard), Chicoine (forward) and Hemenway (guard/forward) all saw varsity time a year ago and look to play bigger roles this winter. Junior D.J. Nicholas, the soccer standout and talented lacrosse goalie is the exciting addition. He's come to basketball from hockey and will likely make an immediate impact from his guard position. The Panthers will be scrappy and will play hard for 32 minutes. The schedule is difficult, but this group should continue to improve and will be a dangerous out if it makes it to Augusta for the tournament.

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

COACH: Liz Smith (fifth year, 29-43 overall record)

2012-13 record: 4-13 (No postseason)

TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: Charlotte Esancy (Senior), Chloe Leishman (Senior), Hannah Carr (Junior)

PIVOTAL GAMES: Dec. 13 @ Waynflete, Dec. 16 OOB, Jan. 3 SACOPEE, Jan. 9 @ Hyde, Jan. 11 WAYNFLETE, Jan. 17 @ Sacopee, Jan. 28 HYDE, Feb. 6 @ OOB

COACH’S COMMENT: "We have to overcome injuries. I think we'll be strong defensively. We'll be good rebounding. The Class C games will be tough for us, but we need to get enough Heal Points in our D games to make the tournament. Moving to Class D this year is good for a small team. Our goal is to make it to Augusta."

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA has some promising pieces in place, but is juggling injuries as the season dawns. Esancy missed last year with an injury, but is back and is ready to lead the team as a scorer and a point guard, at least until Leishman returns from her ankle injury. Once Leishman, who was second in the Western Maine Conference in steals (5.1 per game) and eighth in made 3-pointers (17) rejoins the team, the Panthers will be that much stronger. Carr battled injuries last winter, but she still managed to place ninth in the conference in rebounding (8.1 per contest). She's back and will look to score some points as well. Seniors Maggie Bertucci and Emma Warren provide leadership. Junior Nina Babbitt will be a top defender. Junior Sarah Thompson is back with the squad after spending her sophomore season at Yarmouth High. Freshman Suzanna Butterfield is a player to keep an eye on. She could make an immediate impact. The Panthers could steal headlines if they make the Western D playoffs (NYA's last quarterfinal game came way back in 2004 and its last semifinal was in 1999), but first, they'll have to navigate several tough Class C foes in the regular season. If this team can get and stay healthy, it will only get better. Look for NYA to be in a strong position to succeed come February.

BOYS' HOCKEY

COACH: Eric Graham (second year)

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Colton Ackerman (Senior), Jarred Davis (Senior), Bradley Potter (Junior), Josh Chapman (Sophomore), Nick Demers (Sophomore), Tristan Plummer (Sophomore)

COACH'S COMMENT: “We have a lot of returning players. We expect to take a step forward in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Division I. Our success will rely on the large sophomore class, which gained valuable experience last year, to provide defensive leadership and offensive depth. While still a young team, we hope to surprise some of the top prep competition this season.”

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: NYA is hoping for a strong showing this winter and has some talented pieces in place. The offense will be led by the dangerous Ackerman, Chapman and Potter. A couple newcomers, Bradley McLellan and Brad Rockey, will also be heard from. Defensively, Demers and Plummer have experience. Davis returns in goal and will have company as junior Griffin Cady and freshman Jeremy Thelven will also see time. The Panthers project to be competitive whenever they take the ice and they should steadily improve in the weeks to come. Look for this program to continue to develop and set the stage for future success.

GIRLS' HOCKEY

COACH: Brooks Boucher (second year)

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jen Machin (Senior), Olivia Madore (Senior), Alexandra Barnes (Junior), Kristina Block (Junior), Elizabeth Coughlin (Junior), Juju Tardif (Sophomore)

COACH'S COMMENT: “We have 12 girls on the team. We're getting there. This is basically the same team from last year, but we're more experienced. We want to keep getting better. We want to be at least a .500 program. We're going in the right direction.”

THE FORECASTER'S FORECAST: NYA certainly started strongly, battling Governor's into overtime in its opener Wednesday before dropping a tough 3-2 decision. The Panthers went 7-13-2 last winter (after not winning a single game in 2011-12) and expect to be even better this year. The offense features Block, Machin and a pair of players who scored a lot of goals in field hockey this fall, Madore and Tardif. Coughlin, the field hockey goalie, is also involved with the offense. Defensively, junior Mary Morrison, a standout on Greely's state champion last year, and sophomore Taylor Leach will lead the way. Barnes returns in goal. This team will keep getting stronger and will pull off some impressive wins along the way. A winning season is a possibility as NYA sets the stage for future excellence.

INDOOR TRACK

COACH: Chris Mazzurco (17th year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) No score @ Class B state meet (13th @ WMC meet)

(GIRLS) tie-24th @ Class B state meet (13th @ WMC meet)

TOP RETURNING ATHLETES:

(BOYS) John LeBlanc (Junior), Matt Malcom (Junior)

(GIRLS) Jillian Bjorn-Caron (Senior), Abby McKelvy (Senior), Muriel Adams (Junior), Hannah Austin (Junior), Linnea Hull (Sophomore), Emily Taylor (Sophomore)

TOP FOES: Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Greely

COACH’S COMMENT: “The boys' team is small again with only eight members. The good news, however, is that six are new to the team and we have only one senior. Although the numbers are down, talent certainly is not. With the divisions being split for competition, we should have a strong, competitive team with a good amount of individual and relay potential come championship time. The girls' team has grown immensely the past few seasons. This year marks this largest team we've ever had. The distribution across the grades is even, as is the talent. We should see success during the regular season. In the postseason, there are a good number of individuals who will earn a spot at states, as well as help to form a solid backbone for relays.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA's indoor track program is primed to have a very good season.

The boys' squad is led by LeBlanc and Malcom, who both return to threaten in the distance races. Senior Michael McIntosh is new to the team and will look to score in the sprints. While there isn't much quantity, there is plenty of quality with this group and the Panthers will make their presence felt from start to finish.

On the girls' side, Austin is the top returner. She came in sixth in the two-mile at last year's Class B state meet. Austin will look to move up this winter. Top sprinters include Bjorn-Caron, Taylor and new sophomores Emily Baker and Alex Wahlstrom. Bjorn-Caron will also look to score in the hurdles. On the field side, Adams and McKelvy are top throwers. Senior Kayla Rose, NYA's Fall Female Athlete of the Year and field hockey standout, joins the team and will also throw. Jumpers of note include Bjorn-Caron, Hull, Taylor and senior Adela McVicar. Hull will also pole vault. This squad will be very talented and should be able to hold its own in a challenging conference and score some points in the big February meets. A big climb up the ladder at states is a distinct possibility.

NORDIC SKIING

COACH: Sam Kapala (first year)

2012-13 results:

(BOYS) 12th @ Class C state meet

(GIRLS) 11th @ Class C state meet

TOP SKIERS:

(BOYS) Haley Cunningham (Junior)

(GIRLS) Abbie Hinchman (Junior)

TOP FOES: Freeport, Merriconeag, Yarmouth

COACH'S COMMENT: “We have a very small team, just four skiers. I hope to see strong results from our veterans and consistently improving results across the board. We aren't graduating anyone at the end of the season, so I'm hoping to lay a strong foundation for success this season and well into the future.”

THE FORECASTER’S FORECAST: NYA has a very small team this winter, but will make some noise under new coach Kapala, who skied at Williams College and previously served as a volunteer coach for Merriconeag.

The boys return Cunningham, who was 13th in the classic and 19th in the freestyle at last year's Class C state meet. He's joined by freshmen Henry Briggs and Patrick Mallett, who show promise. The girls return Hinchman, who will carry the torch for the team. There aren't enough skiers to score as a team, but these individuals will impress in the weeks to come.

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Photo: Brian Beard

Chloe Leishman is a top returner for the NYA girls' basketball team.

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Junior goalie Alexandra Barnes, with help from defenders Gabby Linscott (5) and Taylor Leech, will look to hold NYA's opponents in check in the weeks to come.

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Keeley Bartolini takes a shot on goal during NYA's season opening 3-2 overtime loss to Governor's.

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Sophomore Josh Chapman will help pace the NYA attack.

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Junior Matt Malcom is a top returner for the NYA boys.

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Junior Hannah Austin will make a run at being one of the conference's top distance runners this winter.